MOSCOW, September 11. /TASS/. The United States imposed sanctions against Russian investigators over a case involving members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization (recognized as extremist and outlawed in Russia), despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected a claim from a member of the organization, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Monday.
"The United States continues to blindly slap Russian citizens with sanctions. Once again, restrictions were imposed on officers of the Investigative Committee on the basis of ‘credible information’ obtained from the US Department of State," said Leonid Slutsky, who chairs the International Affairs Committee of the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma.
"At the same time, the US ignored the fact that the ECHR, a reputed international institution which in no way cannot be suspected of loyalty to the Russian government, refused to satisfy claims from a Jehovah’s Witnesses follower, and an independent medical examination found no signs of alleged torture on him," the lawmaker told reporters.
According to Slutsky, the move demonstrates that "the United States is ready to impose sanctions for the sake of sanctions and treats them as a routine instrument of the US foreign policy."
"Therefore, Washington brazenly interferes into the affairs of sovereign states in order to attain its geopolitical goals. I’m sure that Russia’s response to a yet another round of unlawful US sanctions will be adequate," he added.
Earlier, the United States blacklisted the head of a regional Investigative Committee department Vladimir Yermolayev and the department’s chief investigator, Stepan Tkach. The two officials and their family members are now prohibited from entering the US territory.
In mid-February, three members of Jehovah’s Witnesses were detained in Siberia’s Surgut. A criminal investigation was launched against them into launching extremist organization’s activities. The followers of this group were suspected of attending secret meetings, distributing outlawed books and recruiting new members.
Jehovah’s Witnesses said on its website that after searches on February 15 its followers were brought to the Investigative Committee building, where they allegedly had their hands bound with duct tape, beaten up, stripped naked and tortured with electric shock. Several people were reportedly injured and complained to watchdog officials. The regional branch of the Investigative Committee refuted the torture reports.
In late March, the European Court of Human Rights has rejected a request of a Jehovah's Witnesses member to introduce interim measures after claims of torture in Surgut.
"The European Court of Human Rights has notified the Russian Justice Ministry about its refusal to satisfy a request by Sergey Loginov on applying urgent interim measures as part of the case after his claims of having been tortured by representatives of Russian investigative bodies during criminal prosecution," the Russian Justice Ministry said.
In line with the ECHR’s practice, interim measures are urgent measures that apply only where there is "an imminent risk of irreparable harm."
The ECHR suggested that Russia’s authorities should carry out an independent medical examination to confirm or refute Loginov’s claims.
A medical examination, conducted jointly by the Justice Ministry and the prison authority, the Federal Penitentiary Service, involving independent specialists, did not confirm any signs of torture, the ministry stated. After considering this evidence and legal arguments, the ECHR did not find any reasons to satisfy Loginov’s request.
Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization that supports offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions.
In August 2017, the Russian Justice Ministry included the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization and its 395 local religious branches to the list of organizations that are outlawed nationwide. The Russian Supreme Court satisfied the claim of the Justice Ministry to shut down the organization on April 20, 2017.